Data, voice drive different connected-car markets

November 27, 2012 // By Brian Fuller
Automotive makers in western markets and emerging markets are driven by vastly different electronics needs that engineers need to understand soon or risk losing designs, according to an executive with the Indian IT giant Mahindra Satyam.

Karthikeyan (Karthik) Natarajan, senior vice president and global head of the company's Integrated Engineering Solutions group, said in an interview that western markets "behave completely differently" from emerging markets.

Mahindra Satyam works with automotive makers and telco providers to build out the infrastructure for connected cars and trucks, and so Natarajan ( pictured nearby) has a unique perspective on design engineering challenges.

"It's not just price point but utility of what you're trying to connect," he said.

Even in more established markets like Europe and North Amerca, the engineering objectives can diverge, he said. North American auto makers are still focused on the front end of the connected car experience, whereas European automakers are very interested in the back end.

"Assume you are connected, what data do you transfer? Is the back-end system ready for rapid ramp of cars sales?" Natarajan said.

Western markets are moving into connected-car systems that integrate vehicle disagonistics, the health and awareness of the driver, and preventing (and in some cases predicting) accidents.

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"If western markets are driven by data, emerging markets driven by voice," Natarajan said. There, it's a cost challenge but also a utility issue. Much driving doesn't doesn't get above 60 kmph in emerging markets. "What is the biggest thing they want? Voice technology." This is putting a premium on speech-to-text technology, he added.

In the west, some integrated services will begin to emerge, such as health care and diagnostics. "The cloud will play a much bigger role… with a lot of predictive analytics and big data," Natarajan said.

Who's driving the designs? "The tier ones are smart (but) regional players will spark this faster than other companies," he said, noting that two of the five Indian automotive OEMs have stopped putting CD players in their vehicles, opting instead to leverage smart phones and other connected devices.

"Innovation is at a certain cost. These are very, very price-sensitive consumers,"